ACM US Technology Policy Committee Urges Suspension of Use of Facial Recognition Technologies

June 30, 2020

ACM's US Technology Policy Committee (USTPC) has called for “an immediate suspension of the current and future private and governmental use of facial recognition (FR) technologies in all circumstances known or reasonably foreseeable to be prejudicial to established human and legal rights” in its “Statement on Principles and Prerequisites for the Development, Evaluation and Use of Unbiased Facial Recognition Technologies.

After assessing the state of FR technology, USTPC concluded that “the technology too often produces results demonstrating clear bias based on ethnic, racial, gender, and other human characteristics recognizable by computer systems” and, consequently, that “its use has often compromised fundamental human and legal rights of individuals to privacy, employment, justice and personal liberty.”

USTPC Chair James Hendler put the Committee’s findings and action into perspective: “FR technology has many benign uses and a bright future. But, the unfortunate fact is that it’s simply not yet reliably unbiased enough to be used when people’s lives, livelihoods—and certainly liberty—are at stake. When all is considered, it is time to take a pause until we can get this technology under proper controls.”

Drawing on the expertise of its membership, which includes computer scientists, as well as lawyers and public policy professionals, USTPC’s statement also outlines a set of guiding principles. Organized around five core areas—accuracy, transparency, governance, risk management, and accountability—the principles constitute recommendations that could form the basis of future standards and regulations.